YSU Mihalik realistic about chances

Slippery Rock has lost all nine meetings with the Penguins since 1991.
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. -- Dr. George Mihalik has spent 34 of his 53 years at Slippery Rock University -- all of them with the football team as a player, assistant coach and, for the past 18 seasons, as head coach.
Thursday night Mihalik will bring his team to Stambaugh Stadium to meet the Penguins in a 7:30 game.
The Rock is 0-1 after losing their season opener Saturday to Bloomsburg, 40-24, despite building a 24-6 lead.
"It was a typical example of a very young football team," Mihalik said. "We had a seven-minute stretch where we did absolutely nothing right. But when you have 14 players who were making their first collegiate start those things are going to happen."
Slippery Rock has lost all nine meetings to the Penguins since the series began in 1991. The closest The Rock has come to winning was in 2000 when they dropped a 24-10 decision.
Big challenge
Last year Slippery Rock held a 6-0 halftime lead before losing 35-13. Mihalik knows things won't be any easier this season.
"Any time you go up against Youngstown State you are facing a great tradition and a team that is always well-coached and prepared," Mihalik said.
"Our young kids kind of lost their confidence in that seven-minute stretch of the second half last week and that's something we have to correct this week.
"The fact that we have a short week to prepare is not an ideal situation when you are going up against a team like Youngstown State," he added.
Slippery Rock's offense is built around quarterback Nate Crookshank, who started every game a year ago. Crookshank (5-foot-10, 190 pounds) transferred to Slippery Rock from Georgia Southern last year.
Against Bloomsburg he passed for 311 yards, completing 23-of-37 with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Crookshank has plenty of help in the backfield with two talented running backs, senior Josh Kniess (5-9, 180) and sophomore Corey Manfull (5-11, 190).
"We consider both Josh and Corey as starters," Mihalik said. "We feel very comfortable when either of them is in the game."
Manfull, a United High graduate, saw considerable action in his freshman season behind Kniess, who led the team in rushing with 1,183 yards and 13 touchdowns.
In the opener Kniess had 66 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries, while Manfull added 63 yards on 12 carries.
Young team
The offensive line has been a big concern for Mihalik, who had to replace four of five starters.
The Rock also have only three returning starters on defense, but fifth-year senior Jerome Whiting (5-9, 240) at linebacker is back after missing the 2004 season with injuries. He and redshirt junior linebacker Brandon Rakszawski led the team in tackles in the opener with 5 1/2 apiece.
Slippery Rock also had a veteran placekicker in junior Ryan Daniel, who earned All-PSAC honors a year ago. He had a 31-yard field goal in the opener against Bloomsburg.
Although Mihalik feels that his team is still a year away because of its youth, he's hoping that they can end the two-year losing streak. Slippery Rock was 4-7 each of the past two seasons after going 12 straight years without a losing mark.
"Yeah, our best seasons are probably still ahead of us," Mihalik said. "But we could surprise some people this fall."

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